The last day.
My friend Keighley asked me if there was anywhere I wanted to go before I left, and I said Cornwall. More specifically, I picked Land’s End–the westernmost point of England. I didn’t realize how symbolic this choice was until later, when we arrived and saw the “First and Last Refreshment House in England,” thus named because it is the first if you are entering the country, and last if you are leaving. And so I ended my year with the fantastic English cliffs and crashing waves, perching on the edge of a rock jutting over the water and looking toward home.
Keighley also made sure I had Cornish pasties and Cornish ice cream before departing–boy will I miss some of the food. They might skimp on the dips and sauces here, but I forgive them because such things as Yorkshire pudding, digestives, and cream tea exist! What else will I miss, you might ask?
The way the self-checkout machine says “unexpected item in bagging area”
Brother’s toffee apple cider
The campus cat
Shakeaway (okay a lot of these are food…I don’t apologize)
The Catholic Chaplaincy and CathSoc
My skeletons in the lab
Walking to the city centre
Watching The Office with Audrey
Sitting out in front of the Cathedral on a sunny day
Being able to hop on a train at a minute’s notice and escape for the day
Walking along the river
Discussing the greatness of America with Marilyn
The view from the common room in Laver
Having people call up to my window from below
Putting on slippers and padding down the hall to Sayali’s room for a late night movie and chat
Not having to pay for gas (petrol to you Brits)
The street performers and people selling balloons on a Saturday
Exeter Street Food
Okay I think that’s enough for now, I’m going to make myself too emotional…
Most of all, I am going to miss the friends and memories I made here. I came here knowing no one in the entire country, but now I know people from many countries! However, I made a fatal mistake. When we were kids, my dad would tell us not to get too attached to stray kittens we found because we’d have to find them a new home. Well, I have gotten too attached to the “kittens” I found here, which makes going home hard. I have never been so excited yet not excited at the same time; I feel like a ball of emotions too tangled to possibly unravel. I want to fold England up and put it in my pocket, or perhaps relocate it to North America where it would be only a state or two away. When I graduated from the University of Indianapolis last year, I was sad to leave a place that had been home for three years behind. But the difference in that case was that Indy is never too far away, and if I wanted to visit I could make that happen almost on a moment’s notice. With Exeter, I do not know when I will return, if ever. That is a sobering thought. And even if I do, the same people will not be here. Even the city itself will not be the same, as the Guildhall is being renovated and a ton of stores have been closing just as I have simultaneously been packing my bags.
So as I sit here tonight and fight the zippers of my bags, worrying about their weight and that I might not find a trolley to carry them all at the airport, I think back on what a positive experience this has been. Keighley asked me if there were any negatives, and after wracking my brain for several minutes, all I could come up with is that everything is more expensive here since the dollar is so weak. I could bring up things like the way you Brits say aluminum or how much I dislike the word aubergine, but that would be nitpicking and really teasing more than anything. 😉 I LOVED my time here in England. Really, truly, loved it. I even got to venture out of the country a bit, to Scotland and Ireland, and it has certainly got my feet wet for more traveling. The travel bug has bit! Here’s to hoping this wandering heart finds her way back to this second homeland.
When I was leaving, and my friends and family were sad to see me go, I told them: “A year will go by so quickly.” “I’ll be back before you know it.” How I wish I had been wrong. It’s like I’ve been leading two lives, and I’d like to hold onto them both. But my time is up, and so I face the next great adventure. I do not know what lies in store (besides my wedding in June!!!), and the prospect of not having the next step lined up like usual is daunting. It is in these thoughts that I look back on this past year, and how it too was a bend in the road, a curveball I wasn’t expecting but I made it through. More than “made it,” I flourished. I have learned so much in these short twelve months, and I now feel so confident in what I can do for my field. God’s plan was even better than what I thought I wanted. I am dully indebted to my father, who found the bioarchaeology program at the University of Exeter during one of his breaks at work–he’s always looking out for me. Thanks Dad.
Rereading some of my old posts, I realized that I originally promised to publish weekly updates. Oops. Despite the lack of consistency, I hope you enjoyed keeping up with my life in this way. I plan on writing more in the future about my inevitable experience with reverse culture shock and perhaps about my career plans as I come to know them, so don’t be a stranger. Stay tuned.
Signing off from Exeter for the last time,
P.S. And Keighley, thank you so much for the lovely trip. It was the perfect way to wrap up a wonderful year!